If you have arthritis, you're likely to have regular appointments with a variety of healthcare professionals.
It's important to get the most out of your time with rheumatology consultants, doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, so you get the information and the help you need to manage your condition.
Your consultations with these professionals will be most beneficial if there is good two-way communication. If you're suffering any problems with symptoms, if medication isn't working or if you're suffering with side-effects to drugs, it's important you raise these concerns.
It might be that these problems aren't there by the time your consultation comes around, so it would help to keep a diary with notes of how you've been between appointments. Remember if you need to talk to a healthcare professional between consultations you can get in touch with your GP or a rheumatology nurse.
If you see a new healthcare professional, visit their department’s website before your first visit to find out where you're going. Taking a list of questions on your phone or tablet might be useful to help you remember anything you want to discuss or ask.
Make sure you don’t miss a consultation without letting them know, as the wait for the next one could be long, and remember to update your contact details if you move house or get a new number.
Before you leave your appointment, find out if the department has a helpline or email address so you can get in touch with them later if you have any questions.
Speak to your GP
When you're in adult services, your GP will be the coordinator of your care and may also supply some or all of your medication. Your rheumatology team will work closely with your GP to make sure they've got the right information.
If you haven’t had much contact with your GP in the past it's worth making an appointment to discuss your care, get to know your GP and their team and find out how to order medicines.
Decide if you want someone to go with you
You may be used to seeing your healthcare team with your parents or carer present, but as you get older you'll be encouraged to be seen for some or all of your consultation alone. This is a great opportunity to get comfortable with seeing professionals on your own.
But it's up to you if you want to take a parent, carer or friend to your appointment, or you can ask for a chaperone.
Another option would be to have part of your consultation with your parents present and then ask to have a private chat with your doctor or a nurse.
Be honest and open
It’s important to be honest and open with healthcare professionals as this helps them to help you.
If you're not used to seeing your doctor or nurse on your own, remember they’re trained to help the communication flow and to make you comfortable.
Being open about your medication is particularly important. Make sure you talk about any side-effects you have experienced and what drugs are or aren’t working. If you’ve missed some medicines or stopped them altogether, tell your team.
Don't be afraid to ask questions
As you get older, topics often crop up that you’d rather discuss without your parent or carer present. For example, you might want to ask about how alcohol affects your treatment or ask for advice about sexual health and contraception. Sharing any worries you have is important and no question is too small to ask.
You’re entitled to have your say, to ask questions and raise any concerns you have about your health and your treatment.
Don't worry about talking privately
You’re entitled to have confidential consultations with your doctor, nurse or therapist. This means that they won’t tell anyone else.
The only situations where your doctor might not be able to respect your confidentiality is if they're worried that:
- you're at risk of harm, either from yourself or from someone else
- you're at risk of harming someone else.
In these situations, your healthcare professional has a duty to inform the correct people.They'll always tell you:
- what they need to say
- how this will be done
- who they'll say it to and when
- what will happen next.
Talk to friends and family
If you choose to see your doctor on your own, telling your friends and family about your treatment and how you’re feeling may be helpful. Parents, relatives and friends can be a huge and vital support during difficult times.